President Barack Obama has come out swinging against Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee's incendiary remarks that the White House has struck a nuclear arms deal that marches the Jewish state of Israel "to the door of the oven."
Huckabee has been criticized by fellow GOP president candidate Jeb Bush for the don’t-go-there Holocaust reference and Democrat Hillary Clinton said comments like his are “offensive and they have no place in our political dialogue.”
Obama dove deep into the controversy Monday, also lashing out at other brow-raising criticism of him -- and taking a swipe at GOP candidate Donald Trump’s controversial statements on Mexico and John McCain.
“Maybe this is just an effort to push Mr. Trump out of the headlines, but it’s not the kind of leadership that is needed for America right now,” the President told reporters in Ethiopia, his latest stop on his historic trip to Africa.
"The particular comments of Mr. Huckabee are I think part of just a general pattern that we've seen that is -- would be considered ridiculous if it weren't so sad."
He noted that GOP Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton even likened Secretary of State John Kerry, who negotiated the deal to lift sanctions on Iran in return for verifiable restrictions on its nuke program,to Pontius Pilate.
“There are going to be disagreements,” Obama said, “but we just don’t fling out ad hominem attacks like that because it doesn’t help inform the American people.”
Huckabee has refused to back down.
He stood by his comments, citing Iran’s repeated threats to “destroy” and “annihilate” the state of Israel.
“They used the word Holocaust,” Huckabee told Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera, who urged the candidate to take back the oven remark. “If we don’t take seriously the threats of Iran, then God help us all.”
After Obama hit back at him, Huckabee tweeted: “I will stand with our ally Israel to prevent the terrorists in Tehran from achieving their own stated goal of another Holocaust.”
Israel strongly opposes the nuclear deal, which it maintains will result in a more dangerous and stronger Iran, which historically has been a major state sponsor of terrorism.
Still, Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer told USA Today’s Susan Page that, “These are not words that I would useor that I think are appropriate."
"Look, we have a very serious disagreement with the administration on a very serious issue," he said. "But what I don't doubt is the sincerity of the president or his team when they say they believe this deal not only makes America safe but makes Israel safe. Where we disagree is the judgment of actually what this deal is going to do."
Bush finds himself now echoing the words of the man he wants to replace (Obama) and the woman who may become the Democrat to stand in his way (Clinton).
“The use of that kind of language is just wrong,” he said at a Florida town hall meeting. “This is not the way we’re going to win elections and that’s not how we’re going to solve problems. So, unfortunate remark -- not quite sure why he felt compelled to say it.”
Huckabee’s oven remarks to Breitbart over the weekendwon support from Trump and right-wing GOP-er Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
“Governor Huckabee has been a strong and powerful voice in defense of the Jewish people,”Cruz told Fox.“He is exactly right to highlight the threat that the Obama nuclear deal poses to the nation of Israel. It is a sad day when the president of the United States cannot or will not see this truth.”
Trump special counsel Michael Cohen told CNN: “"I'm not offended by the words. What I am is I'm concerned. I'm truly concerned for the safety of not just this country but the countries all around the world."
Obama lamented that the “outrageous attacks have become far too commonplace and get circulated nonstop through the Internet and talk radio and news outlets ... And I recognize when outrageous statements like that are made about me that a lot of the same people who are outraged when they’re made about Mr. McCain were pretty quiet.”